Annual Veterans Day Program Held at Bellingham Library
Library Director Bernadette Rivard welcomed the crowd, and opening remarks were given by Jim Hastings of the Memorial Day and Veterans Day Committee. Mr. Hastings is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, who said you couldn’t find a finer group anywhere than the U.S. Military. He urged those in attendance to thank a veteran and to take time to visit those vets in nursing homes and hear their stories.
Hastings introduced a lineup of speakers, including Captain Maura Stevens of the U.S. Army Nursing Corps, a former Army Captain who served in the Army Nurse Corps specializing in mental health nursing. Captain Stevens spoke about what the military meant to her. Having grown up with a father in the service, she spoke of family, both in the tradition she is handing down to her three sons, one of whom is on a 4-year Army ROTC scholarship at WPI studying chemical engineering, and also as the family you make in the places you travel to. Currently teaching at BayPath Vocational High School in the health technology shop, Captain Stevens said it was important to her to be able to take care of people at their lowest times.
Tech Sergeant John Kristant, an Iraq and Enduring Freedom Vet with nearly sixteen years of service in the U.S. Air Force in the active duty component as well as the Air National Guard, spoke about what it’s like to be a veteran. TSgt Kristant comes from a family with a history of military service also; his father retired with over thirty years of service at the rank of Senior Master Sergeant, and his mother, after twenty-nine years, achieved the rank of Chief Master Sergeant. After being deployed four times to various locations in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, he reminded the crowd of the importance of friends and family support.
Senator Richard Moore urged those in attendance to remember our veterans through words and prayers, and to thank them for their service. He reiterated the personal stories of those veterans he has known and is in contact with, including forty percent of his own staff. He reminded the crowd to never be indifferent to their courage, valor, and commitment to the defense of our freedoms.
The day’s guest speaker was Lt. Colonel Christopher Graves, who told the crowd about the U.S. Marine Corps dinner he had attended the night before to celebrate the Marine Corps’s birthday. While he said all veterans are owed our thanks, he praised the veterans of World War 2, known as the greatest generation, and believes we owe them one last tribute. He praised the courage of all veterans, who know what is in store for them when they enlist and don’t hesitate to jump into the fray, something that has been a constant theme in the U.S. military. He especially urged us to listen to the stories of the World War 2 veterans, to call an American Legion or visit with a vet in his/her home and let them tell their story so it can live on.
The Bellingham community was also represented. Students Eli Cowell of Stall Brook Elementary and Taylor Stacey of Clara Macy Elementary led the pledge of allegiance, and high school student Robert Oliver sang the national anthem. Robert and Joseph Oliver also sang “America the Beautiful.” The Blackstone Valley Young Marines presented and posted colors. The invocation was done by Father David Mullen of St. Brendan’s parish, a U.S. Navy veteran, and Pastor Baron Rodrigues provided the closing prayer. The Blackstone Valley Young Marines retired the colors at the end of the event, and Pastor Richard Mosher laid a wreath at the flagpole as “Taps” was played.
The library also concluded a successful drive for Veteran’s Inc. A charity that aids homeless veterans, Veteran’s Inc. had a wish list that included clothes and toiletries for the winter, which were donated to the library in abundance.